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Weather & Natural Disasters

Bloomberg View Column: The Myth of Real Estate Stigma

August 31, 2014 | 4:52 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Charts |

BVlogo I gave some thought to what the long term impact of a nationally-covered local tumultuous event on a local housing market might be…

The Aug. 9th shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer has roiled Ferguson, Missouri, thrusting it into the national spotlight. But what happens to the town of 21,000 outside of St. Louis after the turmoil ends — more specifically, what happens to property values?

Read my latest Bloomberg View column
The Myth of Real Estate Stigma. Please join the conversation over at Bloomberg View.


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Incentivized by FEMA, ‘Houses on Stilts’

March 31, 2014 | 6:00 am |

Nearly a year ago, my wife and I went for a drive in the next town over from where we live in Connecticut and stumbled across a slew of houses being modified to the FEMA Base Flood Elevation (BFE). It was eye opening for me since I never envisioned a house – especially houses built 30-50 years ago – as so readily moveable. As a kid I had observed my dad have his real estate office moved 2 doors down so he could sell his lot to an adjacent condo developer….and 40-years later both of those buildings are standing.

Note all the”tall” garages.

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It also raises valuation issues. How will an appraiser handle the valuation of the house next to the house that was raised? We may see the market apply a penalty to the house not on stilts in a flood zone.

This was a home being lifted last spring…

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and with the work complete…

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What would a potential buyer of the house next door (in a flood zone) think?
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NAR Existing Home Sales Blink, And So What?

March 23, 2014 | 9:00 am |

NAR released their Existing Home Sales Report on Thursday with a headline that read: February Existing-Home Sales Remain Subdued that blamed the severe winter weather and low inventory for lower sales.

Of course inventory has been near historic lows for a few years so that’s not a new reason. I’m left with the weather and as someone who hates to use the weather as a crutch, it seems to be a pragmatic – it’s difficult to show or be in the mood to view properties when it is zero degrees outside. The weather explanation was also used in the prior report but those contracts were signed in December for the January report, before the “polar vortex.”

However the recent hand ringing caused by the downshift in sales is the concern that the recovery is cooling off.

I see the recent fretting about the cooling of housing as an indication of how improving conditions were based largely on Fed policy and not fundamentals. The combination of rising mortgage rates and declines from the year ago release of pent-up demand post-”fiscal cliff” likely gets price gains and sales levels in sync with fundamental economic conditions.

I’ve charted NAR EHS stats from the past 4 years without seasonal adjustments. Price gains have been insane so the combination of slowing sales and rising inventory will take the froth out of the market and hopefully get us on a more sustainable path.

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Is Housing Recovery Thwarted By The Polar Vortex?

February 25, 2014 | 3:09 pm | bloomberg_news_logo |

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Since we have another cold snap in our midst, I thought I talk about cold weather and housing trends.

Back in early January, the US experienced what has now become a household phrase – “The Polar Vortex” and extreme weather has morphed its way into recent housing reports as plausible explanations for a slow down in some of the results.

Buyer perspective: Imagine a couple looking to buy their first home and decide they will begin looking right after the New Year. The dreaded Polar Vortex hits and it is too uncomfortable to run around looking at houses in freezing temperatures, so they postpone until the weather warms up in a month or 2.

Seller perspective: Imagine a homeowner who decides to put their home on the market and they experience searing pain from the cold by simply going to the grocery store. They can’t imagine a buyer coming to look at their home in the severe weather and don’t want their home to sit, so they postpone until the weather warms up in a month or 2.

In both scenarios, I would venture to guess that no one would say:

WOW, this weather is severe. I’ve rethought my (buying or selling) decision and will cancel the idea for a few years because the weather is too cold right now.

or

WOW, this weather is severe. Staying warm in my home right now made me realize that I rushed to make my decision and will no longer (buy or sell) for a long time.

Consumers can better relate to the weather than macro economic theory so throw it into the title of a news article:

NBC News: Spring Thaw May Not Heat up This Housing Market
Bloomberg News: Cooling U.S. Home Sales Only Partly Due to Weather: Economy
Fox Business: Housing Freeze: It’s Not Just The Weather

If we isolate the housing market to new construction (which represent about 15% of sales historically) then it gets a lot more plausible – ie permits, starts etc. can be more affected by the weather on a pragmatic basis.

But that has little or no impact to the vast majority of housing consumers.

Here’s one way to visualize the potential impact of weather to retail sales activity (translation: slow down, spring back) in Business Insider.

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Context, people, context.

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Housing Starts Drop: Whether the Weather or New Trend?

February 20, 2014 | 12:21 pm | Videos |

Yesterday I did a quick interview for CNBC at 30 Rock (right next to the new Tonight Show/Jimmy Fallon set which was all abuzz). We were talking about housing starts before they were released. While predicting this stuff is a fool’s errand, I think the bigger question was whether the recent weakening of housing metrics was a new trend or a pause caused by the harsh weather creating havoc across the US.

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The NAHB homebuilder sentiment index (1 family) posted its largest one month drop in history – severe weather, cost of labor, materials and land with given as reasons but those really aren’t new issues other than the severe weather.

While weather played a role and probably amounts to more of a short term blip, I think the larger concern is the outlook over the next 6 months with reduced affordability (higher rates but still historically low) and the bottoming of existing home inventory in 2013 providing additional listing competition in some markets.

December housing starts
• 999k annualized and seasonally adjusted rate in December, declining 9.8% but exceeding forecasts. More weakness in multi-family starts than 1-family • +18.3% 2013 over 2012

Why I thought January Housing Starts would fall (luckily I was right with the announcement of a record 16% drop) • Same factors in place as last month: Weather, Labor and Material Costs and Land Costs. • Record m-o-m drop in NAFB confidence – looking out over the coming months – suggests a larger impact by weather. • Mortgage rates slipped from last month but still nearly a point higher than a year ago, expectation of flat or edging higher in 2014. • Implementation of Dodd-Frank Qualified Mortgage (QM) may also drag viewing traffic. • Permits already fell over last 2 months which suggests lower starts (contracts versus closed sales analogy).

Actual January housing starts release after my interview
880K annualized rate in January, dropping 16% from December 2013. • January 2014 y-o-y dropped 2%. • Permits fell for 3rd consecutive month, down 5.4% from prior month (seasonally adjusted).

STILL – the question REALLY is whether the recent construction slowdown is the beginning of a trend or a temporary set back that will clear over the next few months as the weather improves and the economy shows some improvement. Right now it feels more like the market is losing momentum and the weather is only making it worse.

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[Three Cents Worth #259 NY] Snowy Weather Keeps The Listings Away

February 18, 2014 | 3:31 pm | curbed | Charts |

It’s time to share my Three Cents Worth (3CW) on Curbed NY, at the intersection of neighborhood and real estate in the capital of the world…and I’m here to take measurements.

Check out my 3CW column on @CurbedNY:

I get the feeling that many businesses (and the local economy) have been on some sort of “pause” during the past month, perhaps partially brought about by the weather. (Full disclosure: I’m the first to admit – I LOVE snow. I’ve even got a snowmaker at home.) Since the market is experiencing the tightest inventory levels in 14 years, I thought I’d compare seasonal inventory trends to seasonal snowfall trends…

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My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: Snowy Weather Keeps The Listings Away [Curbed]

Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed NY
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed DC
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Miami
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Hamptons

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Manhattan Luxury Housing Buyers: ‘Eager but not Desperate’

February 15, 2014 | 7:37 pm | bloomberg_news_logo | Public |

There was a terrific Bloomberg News story by Oshrat Carmiel: Manhattan Trophy Home Sellers Test Buyer Limits on Price that delved into the disconnect between reality and perception of the luxury housing market in Manhattan. I talk about this phenomenon on Bloomberg Radio’s ‘Taking Stock’ with Pimm Fox and Carol Masser.

It all began with Sandy Weill’s $88M sale of 15 Central Park West PH20 to a Russian Oligarch back in late 2011 that closed in early 2012. He was reportedly purchasing the unit for his 20-something daughter to crash when she wasn’t at her home in Monaco but it was more likely a divorce strategy. The home sold for $13k per square foot, 30% more than the recent $10k ppsf record previously set within the building (ie definition of an outlier).

Combine this outlier with the dearth of high end new development until recently and this 13k ppsf threshold became a new pricing tool for hopeful sellers and real estate brokers of large properties. The $100M resale penthouse listing at CitySpire was the new symbol of “outlier pricing” phenomenon. Other examples of aggressive pricing are cited in the Bloomberg story.

Despite the fact that this nearly $100M subset represents a tiny sliver - a handful of listings and sales – in the overall Manhattan market, consumer (buyers and sellers) have been subjected to a buzz saw of news reports about trophy properties giving the impression that properties like this comprise most of the housing market.

In reality there have only been a handful of contracts signed near the $100M threshold at buildings like One57 and 432 Park Avenue (the near $100M townhouse contract doesn’t count because it’s roughly 1/2 the ppsf of those apt sales)..and otherwise the overall Manhattan market seeing very modest price growth.

Yet none of the trophy apartment resales are selling at this new price point. Sellers have been testing the waters to see if someone across the globe will be willing to pay for something here, that in relative dollars to their home market is a good deal or they hope they will get lucky and these buyers will over pay.

Apparently these trophy sellers haven’t used the Internet.

UPDATE
Just got this feedback emailed from a real estate agent: In every neighborhood and property class “testing the waters” is an age-old technique that has enough utility to go on forever. As an agent, I prefer the price that results in a quick sell but I never turned down a client who insists on an absurd Ask. In most such cases, I have picked up a few customers and sold them something else they could afford before the “outlier” ran out of inquiries and the seller dropped its price or took it off the market. I like it when journalists report activity at the extremes of price and value because it helps me to identify the evolving dimensions of the market.

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Bloomberg Radio’s ‘Taking Stock’ with Pimm Fox and Carol Masser
Bloomberg News: Manhattan Trophy Home Sellers Test Buyer Limits on Price

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[Pre-Nor'easter Keynote] Long Island Housing Market: Transitioning from “Recovery” to “Recovered”

February 12, 2014 | 12:17 pm | fedny | Public |

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A while back, I was invited by the Long Island Chapter of the Appraisal Institute to keynote for their winter dinner/seminar tonight in Westbury, Long Island:

LI Housing Market: Transitioning from “Recovery” to “Recovered”

It’ll be great to catch up with my friends and colleagues and I always love to talk appraisalspeak for extended periods of time.

The presentation will cover (2 CE credits):

Long Island Market Reports, Key Trends, Drivers of the Current Residential Market, Fiscal Cliff, Pent-Up Demand, Record Low Inventory, Mortgage Rates, Federal Reserve, Transitioning to a Sustainable Long Term Housing Market Recovery

In a question and answer period, discussion will include Snapshot of the Long Island Housing market, including 4Q 2013 market research results in Long Island, Hamptons and the North Fork; Affordability, What is driving Sales Activity?; The relationship between Sales and Prices – Why is inventory low?; Spike in Mortgage Rates; Federal Reserve taper miscommunication; Why are Housing Prices Rising?; Long Island and Manhattan real estate economy, Credit Issues, Lending, Market Trends, Impacts, and Challenges in Year 2014.

The latest Nor’easter is supposed to start at about 2AM so it looks like we’ll get this done just under the wire!

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Group Claims Glass Curtain Walls “A Major Step Backward Environmentally”

February 4, 2014 | 4:42 pm | wsjlogo | Radio |

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The Wall Street Journal released an intriguing article about the use of glass curtain walls on new buildings: Study: Glass Condos Could Pose Health Threat Through Overheating: Hot Summer Could Raise Temperatures Into Triple Digits.

The piece was inspired by content provided by the Urban Green Council, who are trying to push for more rigorous building standards in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. They’ve had a PR bonanza for this one since the story was even picked up by Gawker.

But the findings were disputed by some developers and architects, who said that glass buildings in recent years have made big advances in overall energy efficiency. That includes improved glass with special coatings to reflect heat and more insulated surfaces in building walls, to comply with increasingly rigorous city and state energy codes.

The idea of glass curtain walls became a bigger issue in the recent boom and the current boom than in years past: the technology has improved, and with shift in the mix towards luxury development, the need for expansive views and light to raise values made it more popular. The irony of this is, and this is certainly not a definitive statement, that glass curtain walls can be less expensive for luxury development than using more traditional mortar/window installs if it is not load bearing.

And Toronto seems to hate them (when not writing about Mayor Rob Ford) in this CBC piece: Throw-away buildings: The slow-motion failure of Toronto’s glass condos.

UPDATE

Ilya Marritz at WNYC just posted on this topic with the understated title: People Who Live in Glass Houses are Really Hot. Here’s the radio version:

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[Three Cents Worth NY #239] 13 Thousand Little (Manhattan) Closings

July 30, 2013 | 4:45 pm | curbed | Charts |

It’s time to share my Three Cents Worth (3CW) on Curbed NY, at the intersection of neighborhood and real estate in the capital of the world…and I’m here to take measurements.

Check out my 3CW column on @CurbedNY:

It’s been quite a 12-month window on the Manhattan market and since I am going on a beach-related vacation tomorrow, I thought I’d get granular like sand (sorry). I took a look at the past year’s worth of co-op, condo and townhouse closings to view the impact of Hurricane Sandy and the Fiscal Cliff on closing patterns, throwing in holidays for good measure…

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My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: 13 Thousand Little (Manhattan) Closings [Curbed]
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed NY
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed DC
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Miami

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